Complex Supports for Complex Needs: The Medically Complex Training Program

The University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW) has long been committed to providing innovative supports for all caregivers, regardless of context. The Medically Complex Training Program (MCTP), housed in the College’s Training Resource Center, rises to that commitment by developing, coordinating, and conducting training for foster and adoptive parents, nurses, and social workers statewide engaged in the care of children with complex medical needs.

“Medically complex” is a term used when a child has an acute or chronic medical condition, illness, or disorder, that requires ongoing specialized care, day-to-day management, and collaboration with a medical team. These medical conditions can vary widely and are typically functionally limiting and, in some cases, life-threatening. Youth with complex medical needs require extra support beyond traditional care, a need that is amplified even more for children in the foster care system. Caring for a medically complex child may include administering medications, maintaining equipment, and facilitating frequent doctor visits and hospital stays.

Because complex needs require complex responses, the MCTP provides both hands-on and virtual training led by highly qualified medical professionals who have the expertise necessary to educate caregivers on providing lifesaving and life-sustaining care. Through these trainings, the MCTP enables caregivers from various backgrounds to provide care for some of the most vulnerable youth in the state.

“What we are emphasizing with these training sessions is that medically complex children require a higher level of commitment and a higher level of care,” says Karen Bowman, Assistant Director of the Training Resource Center. “Ultimately this is about putting an emphasis on child safety. Foster youth have already gone through the traumatic experience of being removed from their home of origin. We want to make sure that caregivers have the knowledge necessary to not only protect these children, but also to advocate for them.”

The MCTP identifies high level, experienced professionals to lead the training topics, which includes faculty members at major university and hospital systems like UK, the University of Louisville, Norton Children’s Hospital, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. This year, MCTP training attendees had the opportunity to learn about an assortment of complex medical subjects such as neuromuscular diseases, transplants, diabetic technology, and blood disorders.

As the program continues to grow, MCTP is developing new ways to disseminate this important information to a more widespread audience. While the current training sessions are offered in a live online or in-person format, Bowman shares that an on-demand curriculum that will be available in in the future. “Offering this online library will allow us to move forward with customized medically complex content that can be tailored to exactly what families need in order to be successful.”